Tell us a bit more about the lady behind the WOC Saver
So, I live in Yorkshire, England with my son (who is an adult, but life’s too good at home and he hasn’t yet flown the nest) and my ten year old spaniel Charlie. I’m an HR Professional and Business/Life Coach by day, and I’ve also done some writing here and there. My biggest passions are holidays and handbags; I’ve been an absolute bag nut for years. I have a collection which mainly consists of Chanel and more recently Hermes but honestly, I love and appreciate all bags.
How did you come up with the concept of the WOC saver? What motivated and Inspired you to start your business?
I’ve been collecting Chanel Wallet on a Chain bags (WOCs) for about ten years now, and pretty soon after I’d acquired my first (which was pre-loved, like much of my collection) I noticed that it had developed a sag in the base, because the leather was so soft. It really irked me, because it spoiled the beautiful lines of the bag. I figured out a homemade solution and for ages I carried a bit of card in the base to try and prevent things from pushing at the leather and making it sag.
About 5 years ago after replacing this sad little piece of card for the umpteenth time, I started to think that I probably wasn’t the only one who was annoyed by how easily these beautiful bags lost their shape, and after realising that there was nothing on the market to prevent this from happening I decided to try and develop something myself. That’s how the WOC Saver was born.
I mean, if you’re going to spend serious money on a beautiful bag, there has to be something more elegant than a scrap of card cut to fit the base, right?
I spent about 2 years experimenting with different thicknesses and weights of base layer. I recruited my WOC-loving friends to road-test and give feedback, and eventually having established that anything too soft didn’t do the job it needed to do, and anything too thick was cumbersome in a bag that has limited space, I settled on the design we still use today.
I spent a lot of time sourcing colour-fast products to use in coating the base layer to make sure the product protected the interior and finally we were all set and ready to go into production.
The added advantage – which was an unintended consequence of what started out as a product to protect the bag and maintain the shape – was that our WOC Savers gently held the WOC open to its optimum width, which meant that as soon as you popped the WOC Saver in, it immediately felt more spacious.
I started small – selling to friends of friends, a little bit on eBay and through Facebook, but the business really came into its own when we set up our wocsaver.com website. We also have a shop in Etsy, and a growing following on Instagram – all this is juggled from our WOC Saver HQ, otherwise known as our little cottage in the depths of Yorkshire!
The thing I’m most proud of, is that my business was born out of a genuine love and appreciation for these amazing little bags. It’s not just a business enterprise, it’s my absolute passion, you know? I get totally giddy that we sell the product I created on a worldwide basis and there are WOCs on all continents wearing what I affectionate think of as their spanx!
What do your products now Include and what are the most popular products In your line-up?
We now have more than 50 colours in the Original WOC Saver range so we can match most interiors. We’ve expanded our offering to include leather-wrapped products in a deluxe range, and our invisible acrylic WOC Savers which come without wings and provide another option for people who want the benefits of using a WOC Saver without seeing anything in the bag at all!
We also have similar products for other bags like Gucci, Mulberry & Dior WOCs, the Gucci Soho Disco and the Chanel Reissue bags, plus a range of sleeper felts for the Chanel Classic Flaps. Everything we sell is designed to be kind to your bags, and to enhance their use as well as preserving the condition of what is a significant investment.
What has been the feedback from your clients about your products?
Feedback on our products has been overwhelmingly positive from day 1. It’s a simple idea, which takes up no room in the bag and it’s very inexpensive when you consider the way it helps to preserve the shape and condition of a WOC. It’s also a game changer in terms of space. I’m thrilled that it’s been so well received.
What challenges have you faced when running the business and how did you overcome them?
I resisted the temptation to grow the business too quickly, even when demand was outstripping supply in the early days because I have always been determined not to lose my obsession with customer service and quality. In business, if you do it fast and cheap, your quality suffers. If you focus on quality and speed, your price gets pushed up, and if your key focus is quality and price, it takes longer and therefore service can take a hit. I was very single-minded in keeping control over all those things because I think they are all equally important.
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to reduce the hours I work on my ‘day job’ in order to nurture our WOC Saver business, and I’m very happy with the balance I have right now between all the things I enjoy doing!
Can you tell us about any habits or rituals that help you to stay motivated when running a business?
I’m very fortunate to love what I do, so motivation isn’t an issue – finding enough hours in the day is often the challenge! I have a well-honed routine though which I’ve been able to keep going during the COVID situation because I’ve been working from home much more.
We ship every single day, so fulfilling orders and doing a mail run has to fit in the day somewhere…you’ll generally find me in the post office most days before 7am.
If I’m away, my son steps in so our service remains seamless. It’s a real family affair!
I also admin a Facebook group called The WOC Lounge – it’s not just about WOCs, actually our community loves all bags, and it’s a relaxed and friendly place to share and debate all things bag and SLG related.
Staying plugged in to folk who share my passion is an absolute joy and if ever I feel a dip in motivation, five minutes in the lounge is a real pick-me-up!
Who would you say Is your style Icon and why?
Gosh that’s such a hard question – I feel like I should be referencing someone utterly chic like Coco Chanel (of course) but the fact is Coco Chanel didn’t make clothes for lumpy old folk like me so I can appreciate her status as a style icon but I don’t aspire to be like her. Most of my clothes come from Sahara London, because they’re relaxed and comfortable but I definitely subscribe to Chanel’s mantra of being classy and fabulous (if you ignore the fact that like much of the world I’ve spent most of the last 6 months in pyjamas!)
Lastly, we know that you are a bag fanatic, out of your handbag collection which bags are your favourite and why!
Ha! You’ve saved the hardest question for last! So, ALL the WOCs, of course – I don’t have as many as I used to, because like most bag-lovers I’ve moved some of them on to fund new purchases. The thing with WOCs is, I’ve loved and worn them for so long, they feel like an extension of me – I can open and close them one handed without looking down, I know exactly which card is in which slot and where anything I need is at because I pack them in exactly the same way every time so after years of practise I’ve developed muscle memory!
I’m glad you said ‘bags’ and not ‘bag’, because that would have been impossible. Right now, I’m enjoying my vintage Hermes Kelly 35 in Etrusque leather with gold hardware. She’s a grand old lady of 24 years but new to me and just really timeless and beautiful. My Chanel Jumbo in so-black calfskin is probably the bag in my collection which took me the longest to find, and that’s very special to me. I have a matching mini which I also reach for a lot. My trusty Chanel Portobello Bowler Bag is not a classic as such but if I judge my favourite by the number of times it’s been worn, that has to be up there because it’s utterly bomb proof and has been a staple of my work wardrobe for years.
I often think it’s the memories we make with our bags that defines their place in the pecking order of how much we love them.
I have an old non-designer fabric bag with worn leather handles that I found in a small boutique in the South of France donkeys years ago and whenever I look at that it makes me smile. It’s battered, but we’ve had some proper adventures together and I love it every bit as much as the ones I had to sell a kidney to fund!
If you loved this interview, join Adele’s Facebook group The WOC Lounge to chat more about beautiful bags!
Are you searching for a WOC? Have a look at the ones we have below and add them to your wishlist!